Monday, September 09, 2019

Fix The Hole In The Tax Bucket

 I can’t imagine how you can think philosophy and wine are similar—except in this one respect, that philosophers sell their learning as shopkeepers their wares; and most of them dilute it, too, and defraud customers — Lucian, “The Sale Of Philosophers”

Governor Ned Lamont has two serious problems. The first is his inexperience in Connecticut politics, which makes him the plaything of lean and hungry Democrat leaders who have a wealth of experience in Connecticut politics. And the second is Red Jahncke.

“First, it was diversion. Now it’s ‘interception,’” Jahncke writes in the Connecticut Post. His article should have been titled “What a wicked web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Pretty much all “woke” journalists in Connecticut should know by now that every “special fund” in the state is a potential slush fund brimming over with tax dollars that can be moved from one walnut shell to the next with lightning speed. These walnut shells are boisterously and falsely labeled “lockboxes.” The trick is to move the pea from one or another shell operation to the General Fund without being noticed by plundered taxpayers, and the switch does not register in the public mind until the tax dollars have been assigned to various slush fund pots, no one being the wiser.

Jahncke spoils the trick at the expense of state budget magicians. He begins on a hopeful note. Former Governor Dannel Malloy had diverted car sales tax revenue to the Special Transportation Fund (STF). These funds have now been “diverted” from the easily plundered STF lockbox by Lamont and backstage hands, experienced magicians – almost certainly Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz and President Pro Tem of the Senate Martin Looney -- and the sleight of hand “completely undermined public confidence in the ‘lockbox’ that is supposed to protect transportation funds in the STF and destroyed any possibility for tolls.”

At the start of his own budget process, Lamont announced he intended to divert Malloy’s “$1.2 billion of car sales taxes over five years.” There followed a public outcry. How dare Lamont propose tolling, an additional tax weight on the sagging shoulders of already overburdened taxpayers, while at the same time robbing a fund designed to pay for transportation improvements!  Lamont quickly moved the walnuts. He “backed down, diverted only $58 million in the current budget and promised not to divert funds from the STF in future budgets, Scout’s Honor.” If you want half a loaf of tax receipts, make a grab for the full loaf first.

The imposture is obvious from afar, Connecticut reporters and commentators suffering from shortsightedness. The Reason Foundation has pointed out that Connecticut “ranked 44th in the nation for overall transportation spending but dead last for the amount of money it reportedly spends on administrative costs,” a datum picked up by Connecticut’s indispensable Yankee Institute. The grossly inflated labor cost evidently ruffled some feathers in the Land of Nod, because number crunchers in the Lamont administration  have now redefined “administrative costs.”

“Starting this year,” Yankee reports, “CT DOT [Department of Transportation] will no longer report $250 million in transportation spending as ‘administrative costs’ to the federal government and instead report it as ‘Expenditures for Non-Transportation Services.’” That should do it. Costs will not be reduced, but the meaning of “costs” will be changed so that the pea will land under the right walnut shell. And in the absence of a critical media, the state, loathed to reduce any of its labor costs, will have, once again, fooled most of the media most of the time. Will the suckers ever tire of being suckered?

There are no locks on Connecticut lockboxes. Leaders in the General Assembly slumber in the pockets of powerful unions; indeed, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz is employed by a union. Funds slated for transportation expenditures  are moved into the state’s General Fund so that the governor and Democrat whips in the General Assembly will be able more persuasively to argue that tolls are necessary to replenish funds diverted by Democrat magicians from the Transportation funding pot into the General Slush Fund, where they then may be dispensed to special interest groups that aid in the reelection of the pilferers. This is grand theft on a scale that dwarfs Mafia operations during the prohibition era.

Not for nothing did Henry Mencken say “Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”

One wonders what a comic talent such as Lucian would have made of it all. Lucian once wrote a comedy called “The Sale Of Philosophers.” In the golden age of both Greek and Roman comedy, philosophers were the equivalent of modern day Harvard professors and politicians selling themselves on slave blocks every election period. Lucian used his theater to poke holes in the more absurd pretensions of his targets. The modern media is in a perfect position to do the same.

But while there are many cynics about, many of them collaborationists with self-selling politicians, there is no Lucian in the crew.

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